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Amazon launches first Alexa health services

Has been granted permission to transmit patient data

Amazon’s popular voice-controlled digital servant Alexa could soon be playing a big role in managing health and handling private patient data.

The tech company announced yesterday that its Alexa Skills Kit, a cloud-based software service, can be used by US health firms to create products that securely transmit and receive patient data.

This will allow patients to use Alexa to access communications from their doctors following surgery, notifications of prescription deliveries and receive messages to help maintain healthy habits and medicines adherence.

The new service is possible after Amazon received certification under the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

The company also unveiled the first six companies to offer a service via Alexa:

· Express Scripts (Pharmacy Services Organisation): Members can check the status of a home delivery prescription and can request Alexa notifications when their prescription orders are shipped.

· Cigna Health Today (from health service company Cigna): Eligible employees with one of Cigna's large national accounts can now manage their health improvement goals and earn ‘personalised wellness incentives’.

· My Children's Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) (from Boston Children's Hospital): Parents and caregivers of children in the ERAS programme at Boston Children's Hospital can provide their care teams updates on recovery progress and receive information regarding their post-op appointments.

· Swedish Health Connect (from Providence St. Joseph Health, a healthcare system with 51 hospitals across 7 states and 829 clinics): Customers can find an urgent care centre near them and schedule a same-day appointment.

· Atrium Health (a healthcare system with more than 40 hospitals and 900 care locations in North and South Carolina and Georgia): Customers in North and South Carolina can find an urgent care location near them and schedule a same-day appointment.

· Livongo (consumer digital health company helping people to manage chronic conditions): Members can query their last blood sugar reading, blood sugar measurement trends, and receive personalised insights and ‘Health Nudges’.

Amazon says it expects to open up the platform to other developers in the near future.

Commenting on the launch, Mark Bini, vice president of Innovation and Member Experience, Express Scripts said: “With our new Express Scripts skill, we are trying to make it easier for people to make better informed health care decisions. In particular, we believe voice technology, like Alexa, can make it easy for people stay on the right path by tracking the status of their mail order prescription, helping us further solve the costly and unhealthy problem of medication non-adherence.”

John Brownstein, chief innovation officer, Boston Children’s Hospital says the hospital first piloted the service four years ago, and that the ERAS service was very convenient for patients and their families.

“We believe it is just one example of how voice technology can extend the care and support of our patients beyond the four walls of the hospital,” he said.

John Brownstein

John Brownstein

These first launches are a further indication that Amazon has intentions to be a major player in healthcare – a move which could have an enormous impact on the field, just as Amazon has revolutionised consumer retail.

In June last year Amazon acquired online pharmacy service PillPack and also launched a joint venture with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway, now named Haven.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

5th April 2019

From: Healthcare

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